Zealous as Thunder: James the Apostle

Today’s guest post is by Brandon Rappuhn, a Logos copywriter.

James was one of the very first apostles chosen. Less than a year after Jesus called him to be a follower, Jesus selected him, his brother John, and Peter as his inner circle of apostles; James and John were called the “Sons of Thunder.” He witnessed the Transfiguration and was with Jesus in his night of agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Eleven years later, Peter and James were arrested by Agrippa in a politically motivated move to gain the favor of the Jews in power in Jerusalem. It’s likely that James, known for being zealous, stood out among the early Christians, which made him an obvious target. His zeal earned him the title “son of Thunder”; twelve years later, it fulfilled Jesus’ promise to share in his crown of martyrdom.

In Acts, we have the only martyrdom of an Apostle recorded in the New Testament:

“About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword” (Acts 12:1–2).

Eusebius records something of further detail that Clement once wrote. He recounts a story Clement was once told of the circumstances of James’ arrest and execution. Apparently, James was arrested due to the false witness of someone the Pharisees had hired. When this false witness saw James being carried away, he was so moved that he converted on the spot, confessed his faith in Jesus, and was taken along to be executed with James.

“They were both therefore, he says, led away together; and on the way he begged James to forgive him. And he, after considering a little, said, ‘Peace be with thee,’ and kissed him. And thus they were both beheaded at the same time.”[1]

It becomes apparent that Jesus chose his apostles not just for their zeal and passion, but for their gentleness. Christ is looking for those who are on fire not only to move and shake the world, but for those who know forgiveness and meekness. Today, on the Feast of St. James, may we remember to be as meek as Christ and as zealous as thunder.

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Written by Aric